"Hello darkness my old friend. I've come to talk to you again." These words from the Simon and Garfunkel song, The Sounds of Silence, are a perfect description of the first forty-eight years of my life. The darkness offered the comfort of familiarity and the certainty of anticipated pain.
Throughout those 48 years, I believed that this darkness had been thrust upon me. Gifted to me, as it were, by a society that prefers to keep the non-conformers locked up in places where they can't be seen. Being transgender and living authentically is the definition of non-conformity.
Looking back from some 10 years after I left the darkness, I see that as much as the darkness was thrust upon me, I also wrapped myself up in it. Darkness was my security blanket. It protected me from things imaginably and assuredly worse. My relationship with the darkness was the food stuff of survival. It was also the lock on the door that led to the light.
Had you asked me, back then, if I was afraid of the darkness, I would have thought you less sane than myself. 'Of course I'm afraid of the darkness! Can't you see what it is doing to me?' Should you ask me today, I would have a different thought.'No, not afraid of the darkness. Afraid of the light.'
I am not afraid of the dark. Half a century of living in darkness has its way of providing that comfort of familiarity. The thing that is so different, is that I am no longer afraid of the light. The light was unfamiliar, unknown and uncertain.
But within the light was the promise of authenticity. The dignity of truth. The existence of oxygen. The correctness of the soul. The definition of truth is not contained in becoming. It is embedded in being. The secret of living is not available through searching. It is released by unconditional love.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the most powerful forms of unconditional love is authenticity. Authenticity is the connection to the light and the creator of the light.
Now I look to the future. The youth of today are creating the path for the youth of tomorrow. The struggle-born seeds of a non-binary society will reveal the fruit of unlimited potential, unharmed spirit, and unbridled capacity for unconditional love. These are the kinds of things that happen when you don't try to limit human identity with expectations of gender.
It will be a place where we are not shamed into the darkness. A place where the right to live authentically is embraced by a society that is also no longer afraid of the light.
Why was I afraid of the light? I think it began with the idea that authenticity was only allowed for those who walked freely in the light. When I was able to look toward the light, there were no transgender people in the light that I could see.
I will say that fear is powerful -- powerful when it is the fear of changing -- and powerful when it is the fear of not changing. The time did finally come when the fear of not changing became more powerful than the fear of changing.
In that moment, I happened once again to hazard a glance toward the light. And in that moment, I saw someone like me in the light. I began to believe that there might be a place for me in the light. I began to believe that I could embrace myself authentically. And in that moment, everything changed.
It has been a few years. I still visit the darkness from time to time. Maybe a little like going to a high school reunion. A little trip back in time. A chance to remember how it felt to believe I was condemned to the darkness.
"Hello darkness my old friend. I've come to talk to you again."
A chance to recognize how much things have changed. A chance to shine a little light into the darkness. Because, you never know. There could be someone there, in the darkness, who might begin to believe that there could be a place for them in the light.